Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Should we stop churches from advocating partisan politics?

Stephen Colbert has a guy on arguing that it's a violation of the 1st amendment to prevent churches/religions from advocating partisan political views. He's got a point. In very strict terms, he's right. You should be able to say what you want and advance whatever party or candidate you want. But there's more to it than that.

The way the gov't keeps (supposedly) churches from advocating politics is by allowing them to not pay taxes. This is where Colbert's guest goes too far. He wants to be able to say what he wants and keep the tax exemption all at the same time. The problem as I see it is that state gov'ts let churches buy and maintain land without paying property taxes while everyone else has to.

This seems unfair to me. I don't see any reason a church/religion should get special exemption. I would be willing to keep the status quo if I thought that the exemption and threat of having it removed kept churches from advocating politics. I strongly suspect it doesn't. So I think a fair thing to do would be to officially let churches say what they want and force them to pay taxes like the rest of us.

The biggest deal here is the tax exemption, which allows churches to own huge pieces of lang at low prices while driving up prices for everyone else. The free speech issue here is really more a matter of theory because in practice this restriction isn't much of a burden. As a preacher or whatever, you can practically walk outside your church and onto the sidewalk and advocate whatever/whomever you want and their tax exemption would be fine.

So this guy on Colbert is really just whining about a technicality while the rest of us actually pay a literal price for our tax policy towards churches. And that's the real injustice here.

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